Upper Waitaki Power Development

Engineering Work (eg road, bridge, sawmill, dam)


Here the canal system linking lakes and hydro-electric power stations required the most extensive earthmoving project ever undertaken in New Zealand.

There are over 50 kilometres of canals with a flow rating from 120 up to 525 cumecs. The scheme also includes the unique feature of a large earth dam on the top of a hill.

The scheme utilises the combined water storage of Lakes Tekapo, Pukaki, and Ohau by dams and canals and successive stations of Tekapo B and Ohau A, B and C. These were commissioned in 1977, 1979, 1980 and 1983/5, and added 848 megawatts to the South Island system.

The whole project is a fully integrated system of hydro-electric power development, and in 1990 generated 4000 gigawatt hours per year, a significant proportion of New Zealand’s energy requirements.

The Ohau and Tekapo B stations and their canals, dams and control gates are controlled by a ultra-high-frequency radio links from the Twizel area control station.

Owner: Meridian Energy Ltd.
Design: Ministry of Works
Construction: Ministry of Works, N.Z. Electricity Dept., NZ sub-contractors

Heritage recognition
IPENZ “Engineering to 1990” project
This item of New Zealand’s engineering heritage was recognised as part of the IPENZ “Engineering to 1990” project which the Institution organised to help celebrate the country’s sesquicentenary in 1990. A plaque was unveiled to mark the significance of this scheme as part of the development of the nation.


Upper Waitaki scheme.pdf


South Canterbury

Access Info

Nature of Engineering
Electrical Power Generation and Distribution, Building and Construction


IPENZ 1990 celebration plaque, 2007

(Click image to enlarge )